Fritz Keller elected new DFB president - but who is he? | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 27.09.2019
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Fritz Keller elected new DFB president - but who is he?

After a years as president of Bundesliga club Freiburg, Fritz Keller has been elected president of the German Football Association. So who is the man who's now charged with overseeing cultural change at the DFB?

Fritz Keller's election by German Football Association (DFB) delegates at a congress at the organization's headquarters on Friday was never in doubt, as he was the sole candidate.  The Freiburg native was elected in a unanimous vote for a three-year term. He succeeds Reinhard Grindel, who stepped down from the post in April.

"I am very happy about the clear vote and the great confidence that the delegates have entrusted me with. Those who have elected me have voted for change," he said shortly after his election. "It is important to me that we lead the DFB into a successful future, with new structures, efficiency and transparency. This won't be a one-man-show. Further developing German football from the grassroots to the top, can only be achieved through teamwork."

Before Keller's name was put forward by the German FA's candidate-selection committee, he wasn't a household name beyond the southwestern Breisgau region. So now that he has officially taken up his new post, the question remains: Who is the man embarking on reforming the DFB?

'People person'

"A people person, who enjoys — and has always enjoyed — meeting people, especially new people." That's how Fritz Keller recently described himself in an interview with a wine magazine. 

His life as a winemaker and restaurateur means he's rarely left wanting for opportunities of that nature. His former other role as president of SC Freiburg since 2010 (originally the role was called chairman) also offered a good chance to chat with coaches, guests and fans at home games, an option he preferred to hiding away behind the thick glass that often separates VIPs from fans.

Like the Black Forest club's coach Christian Streich, embodied the type of approach to running a professional side that most have left in the past. Now he's to take that ethos into his new role as DFB president.

Fußball Bundesliga Hertha BSC SC Freiburg (picture alliance/dpa/S. Stache)

As president of SC Freiburg Keller was often to be seen chatting with other football executives or fans

Those whose only exposure to Keller is on TV screens will recognize a cheerful man who freely expresses joy and talks about a range of subjects — wine, food, soul, respect and humanity among them. 

The Freiburg-born entrepreneur stands in stark contrast to his predecessors. Wolfgang Niersbach (2011-2015) was a 'company man' who climbed the DFB ladder only to resign in the wake of the 2006 World Cup scandal. The man who replaced him, Reinhard Grindel, was a former journalist and politician whose tenure also ended in unsavory circumstances.

Keller, it is to be hoped, will bring amiability, strength of character and steadfast principles to his likely new role. Time and again, the winemaker has emphasized the importance of cooperation and community when it comes to him, the family, his company and his home. These are qualities the DFB has long been accused of lacking.

Success is also important to Fritz, and his restaurant Schwarzer Adler (Black Eagle) has been in possession of a Michelin star for 50 years. But vanity and misuse of power don't seem to be in his repertoire. The third generation winemaker says "evolution not revolution" is the key to his business acumen.

But now, having taken on his new role at the DFB, he has resigned from the position he loved at Freiburg. 

"Since the two offices would not be reconcilable, I will resign from my role as President of SC Freiburg in the event of a successful election as DFB President — but with a heavy heart," the 62-year-old said in a club press release after the DFB's selection committee recommended him for the post.

His experience with winemakers and vineyards around the world should stand him in good stead for working with the various international federations in his new role and he'll also need to overhaul the image of an organization badly damaged in the public perception.

While there are hopes that a new face will mean a new approach at the top of German football, Keller is not regarded as a radical who will completely overhaul the organization's philosophy.

But if he can successfully transport his leadership, philosophy and controlled, composed approach to the DFB headquarters in Frankfurt, some welcome change – as he also pledged just after his election – looks likely to be on the way.  

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